SEATTLE – Pete Carroll pumped his fists and hugged players, greeting nearly every one. He ran a lot on the sidelines – on a left knee the 58-year-old had surgically repaired just two weeks ago.
And all that was before the national anthem. Then he high-fived the guy who sang that.
The coach who bolted Southern California in January to resurrect the fallen Seahawks looked like he was having more fun than his players during Seattle’s 20-18 preseason victory over the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night.
Carroll’s first NFL game since Jan. 2, 2000, when he was coaching New England, was more notable for the new leader’s energy being as advertised than it was for anything the players did.
Chris Johnson scored a touchdown to end Tennessee’s first drive, on the same field where he became the sixth player with 2,000 yards rushing in a season last January.
He had five carries for 7 yards on Saturday’s initial drive. His score came on his third try from the 1, a cutback behind tight ends Bo Scaife and Craig Stevens.
“It felt good to get hit a few times because I really haven’t felt that since last year,” Johnson said in quotes provided by the Titans at halftime.
“We still have some work to do together (but) we’ll be ready to go when it matters.”
Vince Young, heading into the season as Tennessee’s starter after going 8-2 to finish 2009, completed his first five passes for 78 yards. Seattle’s Josh Wilson intercepted the sixth and final one, on a comeback route near the sideline intended for Justin Gage at the Titans 39.
Chris Simms replaced Young with 4 minutes left in the opening quarter. The rest of Tennessee’s starting offense was out by the start of the second period.
The Titans rallied within 20-18 with 4:39 left on a 1-yard run by LeGarrette Blount and 2-point pass by rookie Rusty Smith.
Tennessee got the ball back with a minute left but Smith threw an interception to Kam Chancellor with 25 seconds remaining.
Seattle’s first-team offense produced a 44-yard field goal by Olindo Mare in its three drives. Matt Hasselbeck was 4 of 10 for 26 yards. He was sacked once and had three passes deflected, two by Titans linebacker Stephen Tulloch.
The toasty home crowd on an 87-degree night got its biggest thrill from Mike Williams. The top-10 pick by the Lions in 2005 who ballooned out of the league for two years caught a short pass from backup Charlie Whitehurst midway through the second quarter. Williams, a former star for Carroll at USC, then juked Ryan Mouton with one step and ran 51 yards untouched for a touchdown to put Seattle up 10-7.
Williams kept the football and brought it to the bench. No wonder, given all he’s been through. His last NFL score was on Aug. 11, 2007, for the Raiders in a preseason opener against the Cardinals. Williams has only two scoring catches in the regular season in his once-soaring career.
Chewing his gum intensely, Carroll bolted from the edge of the field to the bench in the second quarter to congratulate the defense following a three-and-out stop in the second quarter. He had a hug for Whitehurst after the backup threw the first of his two scoring passes, the 51-yarder to Williams that gave Seattle the lead for good midway through the second quarter.
Carroll had hugs galore – even one for Mare after he kicked an extra point following Whitehurst’s second TD pass, to rookie tight end Anthony McCoy from Carroll’s USC team last year. That made it 20-7.
Whitehurst, acquired in a spring trade from San Diego with Seattle knowing the 34-year-old Hasselbeck is in the final year of his contract, played until the end of third quarter. He was 14 of 22 for 214 yards, the two scores and one interception.
Carroll ran onto the field past the numbers at the end of the first half to pull sixth-overall draft choice Russell Okung – the only Seahawks starter to play the entire half – and other offensive players away from a skirmish on his way to the locker room.
And the new coach laughed throughout the game, often smiling as he talked to assistants upstairs on his headset.